A moving performance of lieder and English song

It has become a tradition for Oakham’s Graduate Musician to give the first recital of the Spring Term, and so, this week, it was a real treat to hear baritone, George Cook, performing a selection of songs accompanied by Anne Bolt at the piano.

They began with Romantic lieder by Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann. Brahms’ Sommerabend and Mondenschein describe the journey of a ‘Wanderer’ passing through nature, and then the emotional torment of his solitude. In Die stille Lotusblume, Schumann distils the essence of Romantic poetry into music. At the conclusion of the song (the end of the whole cycle, in fact), the final cadence is quietly avoided, as the singer’s final question remains poignantly unanswered. Mr Cook and Ms Bolt delivered a sensitive performance.

The theme of melancholy was continued with two songs from George Butterworth’s setting of A Shropshire Lad. Both songs reflect on the shortness of life, though it is tragic to remember that they were composed only a few years before the composer’s death in the Great War. In Loveliest of trees, an old man considers the impermanence of cherry blossom, and in When I was one-and-twenty, a young man feels the bitterness of spurned love for the first time. Butterworth’s deceptively simple, folksong-inspired melody is a perfect fit for A.E. Housman’s naïve poetry, an element Mr Cook and Ms Bolt drew out with great subtlety.

Pianist and singer conjured an ethereal atmosphere in King David by Herbert Howell’s. This beautiful setting of Walter de la Mare’s poetry was composed at the end of war, in 1919, and is notable for its sorrowful evocation of birdsong in the upper register of the piano.

The recital drew to a close, however, on a consolatory note with Go, lovely rose, by Roger Quilter, in which the singer tells of the promise of a blossoming romance by addressing the rose he is sending to his beloved.

Many thanks to Mr Cook and Ms Bolt for their moving recital.

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